Report: Cuomo might roll back or eliminate a proposed Thruway toll hike
Gov. Cuomo might roll back or eliminate a proposed massive hike in New York State Thruway commercial tolls as the leaders of the Legislature, for the first time, have come out against the plan.
Sources told The Post that Cuomo is reviewing the Thruway’s plan to hike tolls 45 percent beginning Sept. 30 in an effort to raise an additional $90 million annually from trucks and other commercial vehicles. Some of the new revenue could be earmarked for Cuomo’s proposed $5 billion-plus new Tappan Zee Bridge.
State business leaders and the New York Farm Bureau have been warning for weeks that the toll hike could severely harm the already-struggling upstate business climate and add to the state’s reputation as hostile to business, a reputation Cuomo says he’s trying to change.
“The governor is going to take a hard look at the toll hikes. He knows the impact it could have, and he’s concerned and wants to see what could be done,’’ said a source close to the administration.
A main concern for the governor, the source said, is the possibility that Thruway bonds may be downgraded by Wall Street rating agencies if a strong alternative source of revenue isn’t found.
Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Nassau), in their first public comments on the proposal, told The Post they want to see the toll hike canceled.
“I think the proposal is far out of line,’’ Silver said.
“We don’t want people to avoid our highways, which do attract business to the state. If trucks have to pay additional charges, it’s only going to be reflected in what consumers pay.
“I’m sure the [Thruway] Authority could look at making economies, including refinancing some of its debt with the lower interest rates out there,’’ Silver continued.
Skelos said New Yorkers “have had it with high taxes and want government to be more efficient. Therefore, I do not support higher taxes, fees or tolls.”
“We need to do even more to help business succeed, grow and create jobs here in New York, not put more obstacles in their way,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, Cuomo, aware that the legislative leaders fear that talk of a pay hike for lawmakers could sink some members running for re-election in November, won’t raise the matter any more with them until after the November ballot.
An administration insider said, “There are some people wanting to push the matter of a special session for pay raises now, but the governor doesn’t plan to bring it up until after the election.’’
Several state lawmakers, including Silver and, most recently, Assemblyman Joseph Morelle (D-Rochester), a close Cuomo political ally, have been publicly urging a pay raise, noting lawmakers have not had a salary adjustment since 1999. Lawmakers now receive a “base pay’’ of $79,500 a year, but many make substantially more than that with extra “leadership’’ stipends. A new base pay of just over $100,000 has been discussed.